Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January junk drawer

Welcome to the junk drawer, part of a series of monthly posts in which I dump all the stuff that I couldn't develop into full blog posts this past month.  There was a ludicrous amount of stuff in it this month, so let's get started.


I'd like to start with a bunch of ship-related notes, mostly unrelated:

If I am elected to CSM8, know what the very first thing I'm going to mention to CCP Soundwave and/or CCP Fozzie and/or whomever will listen to me?  It's silly.  But it's just the first thing I'm going to mention: why do all ships accelerate to warp at the same rate?  17 times out of 20, this means that two ships that align and warp away from one gate to another gate will arrive within one or two seconds of each other.  Doesn't matter if one is a battleship and the other is an interceptor.  If the distance between gates is under 20AU or so, they'll arrive at the next gate at the same time, forcing the interceptor to keep up the chase in the next system.  This is silly to me, and easily fixable.

Did you know that align time rounds up?  It does.  If you have two ships one of which aligns and warps to gate in 4.2 seconds and the other which aligns and warps in 4.8 seconds, they both align and warp in the same amount of time: 5 seconds.  Anything under that is lost.  You'll go to warp at the beginning of the next second after your align timer runs out.  So if you're tweaking and tweaking in EFT to get your align time down, keep that in mind.  Adding "nano" for additional speed is still fine.

Have you noticed that all of the new ship models (the new Tempest, the new destroyers, the Venture, etc.) have a number of visible hard-points on the ship's hull equal to their number of high slots, regardless of their number of gun and missile points?  That's planning for the future: sooner or later, there are going to be visual turrets for remote reppers, energy transfers, neuts, and the like.  The art team is ensuring they have places to put them.  That's good thinking.

Remember how I said how the Cyclone was the biggest winner of the combat BC re-balance?  Forget all that.  Fozzie kicked its ass hard.  Power grid -100... ouch!  Both Amarr BCs are now tied for first place for best BC.  Brutix is now in third... or in first place if you have maxed out skills.  Cyclone drops to 6th or 7th.

Know what the hottest accessory for command ships is going to be if "on-grid links only" becomes a reality?  Corpses.  "Grid fu" has been around a long time and the most convenient, least vulnerable way to stretch an EVE grid is to jettison a corpse from your cargo hold.  Corpses don't create a can and they're not warpable.  I was previously indifferent about corpses but have now started a small collection for this specific purpose.  If you fly command ships, you probably should too.

Speaking of off-grid boosters, I came up with an almost disgustingly evil solution to this problem that's very easy to implement:
  • don't let ships activate links inside a POS, the same way you can't usually cloak inside a POS; then,
  • make a command ship with active gang links a warpable beacon that appears on everyone's Overview.
If you're already on grid, this won't be a problem as long as you stay within 150km of the fight, right?  And if you're off-grid, you can keep those links up as long as you want.  ;-)

Kind of a silly question, but why do you get a noobship that matches your race when you dock in a station without a ship?  Shouldn't you get one that matches the race of the station?  For instance, when you dock in a Caldari station, you get a Caldari Captain's Quarters, not one for your race.  So why do you get a Velator if you're a Gallente docking in a Caldari station?  Do the Caldari keep a few thousand of these sitting around for visiting Gallente?  This might be the main reason we're getting pirate noob ships: to address this little discrepancy.


And now some New Eden personnel related notes.

Kil2 now works for CCP!  No word yet on his CCP name that I've seen.  That means two out of the three most publicly knowledgeable people in New Eden about the ships themselves are now CCP employees.  It's started a persistent rumor that the reason Elise Randolph isn't running for CSM8 is because he's going to make it three out of three.

This one's been kept pretty quiet, but Courthouse has stepped down from his GSF- and CFC-related leadership roles.  What this means, I leave an exercise for the student, since I'm not an expert in Goon politics.  Certainly interesting though, at least to me...

And now a totally self-interested plug.  ;-)  Two other members of Rote Kapelle have blogs.  Logan Fyreite has been blogging for longer than I have on a variety of EVE-related topics.  Right now, he's working on a guide to corp-level security that those of you running corps will find interesting.  Second, now that Kil2 is out of the EVE-player-produced video business, I suspect my alliance-mate Apathetic Brent is going to get into that business more seriously.  He's created a blog to serve as a central hub for discussion of small-gang PvP-related topics, guides, and videos.  He's just started it, but keep an eye on it to grow.  Logan, Brent, you guys can make the check out to...


Finally, a fun quick note: a new generation is learning about New Eden.  It's almost sweet.  They grow up so fast...


And that's all for the junk drawer this month.  Kind of a busy one!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fit of the Week: Gank Redeemer

Every month or two, my income (usually from manufacturing) is sufficient that I can afford to buy "something nice."  The definition of "something nice" varies quite a bit each time I do this, but it's usually something in the billion ISK range or so.  Last May when I was doing incursions, I decided to buy a Redeemer to play around with bridging two of my PvP accounts on people, either in bomber/recon, or recon/recon.  It was amusing and I got kills against the old Babylon5.. alliance and the other old carebear residents of Fountain, but I was quite annoyed with the range limitation.  So I eventually filed the ship away as money mostly wasted, and forgot about it... until last week of course.

Now I'm looking forward to flying it again a bit.  I'm settling in on a final fit, but it's almost certainly going to be for small gang Blops work and look something like this...

[Redeemer, Gank]
Damage Control II
Centii A-Type Adaptive Nano Plating
Centii A-Type Adaptive Nano Plating
1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
1600mm Reinforced Steel Plates II
Imperial Navy Heat Sink
Imperial Navy Heat Sink

Shadow Serpentis 100MN Microwarpdrive
Republic Fleet Warp Disruptor
Federation Navy Stasis Webifier
Medium Capacitor Booster II, Navy Cap Booster 400

Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Mega Pulse Laser II, Imperial Navy Multifrequency L
Ammatar Navy Heavy Energy Neutralizer
Improved 'Guise' Cloaking Device II

Large Trimark Armor Pump I
Large Energy Burst Aerator II

Ogre II x5

The Covert Jump Portal Generator takes the place of the heavy neut if I'm the one providing the bridge.  First, the bad news: Redeemers have ridiculously poor CPU even for an Amarr ship.  That means to fit them you have to make lots of little compromises and at least one or two big compromises.  That includes the A-Type ANPs which are expensive but use zero CPU.  And you're going to need every scrap of CPU you can get.  That also explains the faction Heat Sinks and some of the other gear including the specialized cloak: all of them are measures to swing your limited CPU to things that need it.

You're not nearly as constrained on grid and since I consider Black Ops ships to be hit and run raiders, I rigged mine with a T2 Energy Burst for additional DPS.  That, the Mega Pulses, the faction Heat Sinks and the drones means this ship can produce well in excess of a thousand DPS before overheating, with good cap endurance.  The Heavy Neut is for shutting down the active tank of the target, which is hopefully a couple of ratting Tengus, a mining op, or something similar.  That also explains the web: in concert with a fleet of other bombers, recons, and black ops, the amount of tackle on the field should be substantial.  If there's no need for the web because your fleet has more tackle than it needs, I'd probably wedge a Tracking Computer there.

And if you're lucky, the neut is being used in concert with several others to take down a ratting carrier's self-rep.  ;-)

Tank is 99k before fleet bonuses, which is quite thin for an Amarr battleship.  The main reason are the very poor resists, which are about equal to an Apocalypse.  Black ops do not get the higher resists that other T2 ships do.  ANPs provide good basic (zero CPU) resists supplemented by a DC; dead-space versions are the equivalent or better of faction EANMs depending on the class you choose.  Buffer is a single Trimark and two T2 plates.  These new plates are terrific on battleship-class ships: they provide significant extra armor HP and don't degrade speed significantly.

Mid slots are basic, with the faction point for extra range and the faction MWD to somewhat reduce the ship's cap penalty.  If you go with double Trimark on yours instead of using the T2 Burst or are bridging, you'll be able to fit a Heavy Cap Booster instead of the Medium one I'm using.  For drones, I'm torn between Ogres, Berserkers, and Gardes.  The Ogres provide the best DPS and in many cases you'll be immediately jumping on someone within a few kilometers so right now I'm leaning Ogres.  They're terribly slow, though.  I might tweak a bit there.

All in all, the Redeemer is the best of the blops: hard-hitting with a good tank and useful utility.  But "best" in this case doesn't mean "good" yet.  It's thin-skinned and the compromises that you have to make to fit it make the Redeemer a very expensive toy, hard to fly and painful to lose.

Still, I've had this expensive toy for about eight months now.  Time to do something fun with it.  Bridge is up, go go go!

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Warning: the following post is ridiculously long.  You have been warned.

Fractals are one of the few concepts in math where the phrase "I'm not sure what it is, but I know it when I see it" applies.  The most famous quality of fractals is that they are "self-similar": a large fractal is typically made up of many -- often infinite -- smaller fractals, each of which looks similar to the whole.  See the fern to the right, where each of the three smaller boxed pieces looks like the whole, as would all of the increasingly smaller pieces.  For this reason, it's also difficult or impossible to measure the outside edge of a fractal: as you zoom in, the outside edge that appears to be straight reveals itself to be almost infinitely long, curved, and complex.

Self-similarity is the easiest concept of fractals to understand.  If I plot the temperature curve for a single day where you live, it will start very low at midnight, dip a bit more as dawn approached, rapidly climb as the sun came up, flatten at the top, then drop rapidly to the point where it began.  If I plot the temperature curve for an entire year, it would behave similarly: in the northern hemisphere, it would start low in January, dip a bit more as you approached the deepest part of winter, rapidly climb through spring and summer, then drop rapidly during fall until winter began again.  As I zoom in on the annual temperature curve, I find that it's made up of a lot of relatively tiny daily temperature curves that look the same as the whole.

The same concept applies in a startling number of other areas: stock prices over an hour will tend to look like stock prices over a day will tend to look like stock prices over a year.  The curves of segments of the coast of my home state of California look like the curve of the whole.  An entire planetary system with a star and orbiting planets looks very similar to a single atom which is a basic building block of all matter.

Got it?  Good.  Let's apply it to EVE Online.

Focus: CSM Summit Minutes, "The Next Decade" session

During this session, CCP Unifex makes one thing clear again and again: EVE "can have a broader appeal without losing the things that make it EVE."  CCP Seagull makes clear that she wants to engage all of us on three levels: as customers, as players, and as characters.  At the middle level, she wants to make sure we all remember that "you can be a solo-playing carebear, and still be part of the overall player community."  Then she adds, "Sometimes we become victims of things that are already in the game, and it becomes hard to talk about higher level things."

I want to talk about two of those things, but not just yet.  Let's get through the rest of this introduction first.

Seagull mentions that she wants to start this effort by looking at two things.  First, she brings up that she sees two important types of players she wants to make the game less bad for, which she calls "instigators" and "enablers".  Instigators are leaders of people and planners of campaigns.  Enablers are the people who make those plans possible, through task management, logistics... and by providing resources.  "We kind of have a history of treating these people like... shit," Seagull says (correctly).

Second, she says (also correctly) we're having a hard time as a community guiding new players into activities that they might find fun:
As a young player, you go on the website and you decide you want to be a pirate, for example, and then you come into the game and you go 'OK, What should I do now?' And we're not doing a great job of mapping people into those things that they can do.
Finally, Seagull wants to engage more with three types of players, who she classes as "lurkers" (solo players), "followers" (people who want to connect to existing small scale communities), and "small scale leaders."  Got all that?  Good, here's the important bit:
This is not a question of this type of things being available only in null-sec. Once you decide what kind of player you are, there are other parameters that affect how risk averse you are and where you decide to place your game play. But in terms of product development, these three design targets apply across [all areas of space.]
Remember, this isn't me saying these things.  This is the Senior Producer of EVE Online Development.  She wants to open up the game to all styles of play at all levels of risk aversity.  I've already made a joke about seagull managers.  Those of you who think she's already started making noise and crapping on things may start blaming her, not me.

But in the meantime, I happen to agree with her: I think there's room in EVE for all types of EVE play.  Even people who insist on being high-sec "lurker" "enablers."  You know them as solo high-sec miners and missioners.  Or null-sec "small-scale leader" "instigators."  You know them as the leaders of small-gang PvP alliances.  Two types of players that EVE is currently "treating like... shit", to quote the poet.

And that's where fractals and self-similarity comes in.

Let's start with the latter group.  Seagull describes their problem with a level of understatement that is impressive: "Right now, politics form an entrenched barrier to becoming an instigator that is extremely high."  Translation?  It's freakin' hard in this game to become an FC.  Then it's even harder to become a corp leader.  Harder still, becoming an alliance leader.  Then it's even harder to build that alliance from a small group of players to a force to be reckoned with in New Eden.  Matter of fact, if you don't have some pretty good sponsorship, you can't do any of those things at all in this game.  I assure you, this is happening no matter how far you zoom out or zoom in.  That's an extremely high barrier, all right.

For example, try taking an existing small alliance into null-sec and taking some sov.  If you're not sponsored by one of the already-established players, you're going to get absolutely stomped.  The other night while talking on Declarations of War, I mentioned that null-sec should look like a current world map:
  • big enormous players like the United States, Russia, and China; then,
  • medium size players like Germany, France, Venezuela, Egypt, Israel, and Brazil; then,
  • small scale players -- some of whom are rogue nations and some of whom are not -- like Iran, Yemen, North Korea, Poland, South Africa, and Costa Rica.
There should be a hell of a lot more members of the bottom two categories than of the top, and they should all be free to operate independently.  What we have in EVE today isn't anything even remotely like that.  How do we get there?  I haven't a clue.  But what we've got today is the United States and countries like it owning (say) all of North and South America and parceling out little scraps of land to favored (and ever-changing) toadies.

The stupid un-fun "everyone is blue" mess that results in much of null is the result.  When Rote Kapelle roams, I want to cross 50 borders over the course of a small-gang PvP roam, not two.  And I want to encounter the small gangs defending those borders.  And there should be the possibility that Rote Kapelle and all these other little groups can set up our own rogue Yemen-like state somewhere...
  • without having to make a sign of obedience; and,
  • without getting hilariously instantly monkey-stomped by the big brother next door; and,
  • without going through the horrible pain that goes with claiming, holding, and attacking sov.
Again, how do we get there?  Dunno.  Haven't a clue!  But the null-sec game isn't gonna be worth a damn soon if CCP can't figure out a route.  It'd sure be a hell of a lot more fun than what we have today.  The big players could still have their massive wars, but there would be room for people who don't want to play EVE that way, too.

Ever seen the EVE Chinese server Serenity's sov map?  It has seven colors on it.  We're getting there.

So players end having to join a monster coalition, where it takes forever to be a corp leader or an alliance leader or an FC... and then these monster coalitions wonder why no-freakin'-body wants to venture out of high-sec.  Here's a thought: you have set up an "enormous political barrier" to them doing so.  And it exists at every level from the micro to the macro.  Individual players can't join without 10 million skill points.  Corps can't join without a solid kill-board record.  Alliances can't join without making the sign of obedience.  Zoom in, zoom out, it all looks the same.

Let's move on to the other group, the lurker enablers.  Here's what CCP Unifex has to say about them:
Unifex reminded the CSM once again that this group, the lurking single players who are already subscribed, are the majority of characters on Tranquility.
Read it again, 'cause I'm pretty sure you didn't understand it the first time: there's a hell of a lot more of them than there are of us.  And we're treating them like shit.  As I've already mentioned, the "level 80s" are preying on them, but that isn't even the worst thing.  The worst thing is that we're not even giving them the option to play this game any other way.  As a new player in EVE, you've got three choices of you want to keep playing this game:
  1. Join a monster low- or null-sec coalition as a "pubbie scrublord."  These will spend the next couple of years being told just how bad they are.
  2. Join a whole corp of "pubbie scrublords" in a high-sec corp.  These will spend the next couple of years being preyed on by level 80s.
  3. Try to fly solo under the radar and let this game try to almost literally strangle you in your crib.
Any of those options sound fun to you?  Yet thousands of new EVE players are stuck on the horns of this dilemma.  I hear from an absolute ton of new players every week asking my advice on what path they should take.  Fortunately, there are a few "none of the above" options, but not many.  Unifex mentions a couple, then makes it clear he has our number here, too: "the vast majority of corps in EVE are simply off-limits for various reasons," before adding "CCP wants to turn this around, he wants to turn this around by creating more things that corporations would want players to help them with."

And again, this exists at every level of the game, from the micro to the macro.  The people who started down one of these paths and escaped it somehow become the level 80s preying on the new generation.  "I paid my dues, now pay yours," they say, as Forbes magazine puts it when describing the habits of corporate bullies.  Then the big corps say that to the little corps and bully them.  Then the big alliances say that to the little alliances and bully them.

And just like how many null-sec residents simply can't understand why high-sec players want nothing to do with their style of play, members of massive null-sec coalitions wonder why NPC null-sec or FW low-sec residents in small-gang PvP alliances don't want anything to do with theirs.  But then both groups shrug, describe them as "bads" and go back to their business.  The superior players regard the inferior ones as sub-human and say their style of play should be nerfed until it's impossible to enjoy.  "CCP, force these idiots to play the game my way!" they say.  Zoom in all you want.  Zoom out all you want.  It all looks the same... a self-similar fractal.

OK.  Deep breath.  In the Reddit thread and argument that's forming about "Ripard said what?", maccabeus posted a fantastic, fantastic response (edited slightly):
This is EVE. You are immortal, and you have infinite potential. You have limitless technology at your fingertips, and limitless power to earn.  Whether you PvE or PvP, you are only playing the game wrong if you are content to never improve.
Seagull again: "We should be able to say we're now looking at shaking up the stale experience of instigators and enablers in this area of the game, and we'll tie that into the theme of whatever we're doing.  These are the types of conversations we should be able to have."

That's why I'm bringing this up.  We should be able to talk about this and ask the question: are we happy that this is how EVE is?  Even if the eventual answer is "yes."

Oh and by the way?  Asking these sorts of questions and getting the perspective of players and then taking those perspectives to CCP is why I'm running for CSM8.  Just in case you're curious.

What are you doing to that strawman?

I'll make this quick because I want to get a much more important post finished and out today.

From time to time, I am accused of writing incendiary rhetoric aimed solely at getting people worked up and generating page views.  It's an argument that I find kind of amusing because I don't accept advertising and I'm not paid by the hit.  Granted, having a lot of readers is gratifying but I wrote this blog just as much back when I was getting 300 hits a day and I'll continue to write my stuff if it ever goes back to that.  I'm motivated by the fact that I like to write, my visitors (whether few or many) seem to enjoy what I write, and I like having an influence on the game we all love, not by the number of visitors I get.

Still, for all the times I'm accused of writing something inflammatory in a deliberate attempt to get people riled up, it's amazing to me how it's never recognized on those very rare occasions when I actually do it.

A couple of days ago, I finished reading the comment storm that I generated for daring to hold the opinion that CCP is conflicted about the nature of their own game.  People have asked me if I'm done with the CSM Minutes.  To you, I say: I've barely started on the CSM Minutes.  ;-)  In particular, I haven't written word one yet about far and away the most important section of the Minutes.  That starts today.  Look for that post shortly; it'll be called "Fractal".  But I've been gently leading up to it through posts like the "Conflict of self interest" post and the post I wrote highlighting some of the comments from that post.

In those comments, I was struck by just how many people brought up three factors:
  1. high-sec ganking is most often a solo play style;
  2. there is an enormous power and wealth gap between high-sec gankers and their targets; and,
  3. high-sec gankers were horrified that anyone would want to suppress their way of playing EVE.
Given that high-sec gankers are suppressing the way their targets want to play EVE and regard those ways of playing EVE as somehow sub-human, the irony of the last point was not lost on me, I assure you.

So I chose a comment that I thought summed up all three points and wrote the COTW post describing that perspective.  But then I decided to be a bit provocative and inserted a couple of subconscious references to those with enormous power preying on those without it.(1)  And then, just to really put the icing on that cake, I titled that one with part of the most incendiary quote from that comment I could find:
The Carebears need teeth.  And frankly, the PVP guys need to get their faces kicked in a bit to realize that ganking a freighter or an exhumer isn't PVP and never was.
I added a bit of sarcastic banter, because that's what I do, then I topped the whole thing off with the following paragraph which absolutely nobody seems to have read:
Am I exaggerating to make a point?  Maybe just a little.  But... just maybe I'm not exaggerating at all.  This sort of thing happens every single day in EVE and most of us have just come to accept it -- and the cost it wreaks in player unsubs -- as part of the game.  The question that started the philosophical debate: should we?  I still don't know.
Emphasis at the beginning mine.  Amusingly though, that very last line is literally the one and only opinion that your humble narrator expressed of his own in the entire piece:
I don't know if we should accept, on a completely unlimited basis, that "the strong may prey upon the weak as much as they like" as part of the game.
And just maybe, neither does CCP.  More on that in "Fractal".

But my comments thread turned into a river of flame anyway.  ;-)  It's up close to 150 comments now and still rising.  They're coming in faster than I can read them in detail and think about them.  I'll likely have time to do that this weekend.  It's started a Reddit thread, launched thousands of words of blog and forum posts, and both rage and agreement with "what Ripard said" from one side of New Eden to the other.  Two bloggers in particular wrote what are practically massive scholarly treatises about what they think they read, or maybe what someone else told them I wrote.

Problem is, they're viciously attacking a strawman while I stand 20 meters off with my hand in the air saying, "Ummm... guys?  I'm over here."  Nobody seems to have actually read what I actually wrote.  It's really rather epic.

"Obviously Jester approves of this position because he chose it as his COTW.  Duh," the counter-argument might go.  Nope.  I've chosen COTWs that I disagreed with lots of times.  It's never been a problem before.

For the record:
  • Do I think war in high-sec should be limited to suicide ganking?  Nope.
  • Do I think there should be a PvP-free zone in EVE Online?  Nope.
  • Do I think there should be any condition under which an EVE player can be in space and be completely safe?  Nope.
  • Do I think new or inexperienced players should be safe in low- or null-sec should they travel there?  Hell no!
And know what?  My COTW post didn't argue in favor of those things.  Go read it again if you don't believe me.  Anyone who is curious about my own current EVE play style should go ahead and read the post I wrote last year called, of all things, "Play style".  That sums it up admirably.  I wrote it, quite ironically, during a time period where I was being accused of being a bully myself.

The other thing I find quite funny about all this: absolutely nobody burning me in efigy has expressed any disagreement with the basic fact I presented in the post: the gankers involved have all the power in this relationship and are preying on players vastly weaker than they are.  That was a fact, not an opinion.  The response I'm getting from those defending that position appears to be "Yeah?  So what?"

So I'm asking if that's how we, as EVE players, want the game to be.  And in so doing, I obviously wish to totally and forever destroy every aspect of their EVE play style.  Obviously.  Someone let me know if that strawman screams in pain or something, will you?

(1) Those who truly do have massive moral objections to my oblique references to slavery and rape should really go into the game you're playing and review the history of the Amarr and Ammatar factions.  And then when you're done, presumably never fly Amarr ships or use their technology ever again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"No" but in the nicest possible way

Just a quickie.

For those of you who are on Team "Summer expansion = POS expansion! Go!", CCP Seagull has posted a reply to Two step's thread on the topic.  And it is the kindest, gentlest, nicest "no" that I've read so far in 2013.  Go give it a read, but here's the money quote referencing the modular POS prototype:
The result was design work and a prototype, where the prototype and art requirements were centered on stuff that was very cool for the person creating the starbase. ...  Because there were too many open questions around the functionality outside the features for starbase creation, we could not responsibly green light the design to go into production for the summer expansion.
Translation?  "The design was for a fantastic toy -- really cool stuff! -- but when we asked 'Yes, but what does it do?' the team couldn't give us a good answer."

Dear Heaven, do I like this lady.  Where was she before the Incarna expansion?

Anyway, she also says that we're not going to know more about the theme chosen for summer until late in February.  Meanwhile, Trebor Daehdoow has let slip that CCP and the CSM are hashing out what that theme might be and what features might be included even as I type this.  In a very real sense, CSM7's term started a little over two weeks ago...

QOTW: The boy who cried wolf

I'll try to make this quick, since my biases around CSM7 member Darius III are well-known by this point.

On Friday, Darius III (D3) made an interesting claim on the EVE Online forums:
In mid 2012 I was contacted by a leader of one of the largest alliances in the game and he asked me if it was true that CCP was intercepting player communications.

Indeed that was true-CCP intercepted player communications.
EVE News 24 picked up on the story and expanded on it not long after the message was posted on the forums.  The short version, as I understand it?  CCP developers are known to play EVE, but are discouraged (but not forbidden) from taking place in large-scale sov warfare.  In this case, one CCP employee apparently claimed to Darius III that a second CCP employee playing EVE on the side of the Honey Badger Coalition used his access to tap into either personal EVE mails or alliance EVE mails of the Southern Coalition during the war between these two groups in mid-2012.

Under the various rules that manage communications between EVE players and CCP employees, plus the additional rules that D3 agreed to when he became part of the CSM, he believed he could not legally share this information at that time.  But at some point in the last six months, D3 apparently received additional confirmation from some public source that confirmed his original information.  Since the second source was public domain, he supposedly now feels comfortable revealing this information.

Remember: this isn't me saying these things.  This is me doing my best to present what I believe happened from D3's perspective while trying not to judge.  Got that?

Great.  Let's start judging.

Let's get the obvious bit out of the way: I would be stunned if CCP didn't monitor and log in-game player communications.  If I make a claim of real-life threats or harassment and the supposed perpetrator denies it, how is CCP supposed to confirm or refute these claims and then take appropriate action without such logs?  So the real question here isn't whether CCP intercepted those communications.  I think we can accept that as a given: CCP captures everything you write in EVE mails, alliance mails, and chat logs and stores it somewhere.  The real question is "Did a CCP employee use player communications to his or her own advantage, or to the advantage of the in-game entity that employee was part of?"

And that comes down to CCP internal accountability: who has access to those logs, and under what conditions may they be accessed?  That's the part we don't know about, and the part D3 isn't sharing.

The problem here, though, is that the claim fails the Occam's Razor test: what is more likely?  That a CCP employee risked his or her paycheck, reputation, and the welfare of his or her family for the very dubious benefit of providing intel on an alliance that was massively outnumbered and outgunned and wavering on the edge of defeat anyway?  Or that SoCo communications were compromised by one of EVE's legion of player spies, and someone thought it would be "funny" to claim that their information came from a rogue CCP employee?  Which are you more likely to believe?  Yeah, me too.

But fine, let's say for a moment that D3's unnamed source (that he can't reveal) is a current or former CCP employee who is absolutely irrefutable and his proof is likewise beyond question.  I can hardly think of a more ironic messenger for this message than someone who literally owes his positions on CSM6 and CSM7 to outright lying to hundreds and hundreds of EVE players over a long period of time!

Talk about the boy who cried wolf!

So yeah, I detect a bit of a credibility gap.  We'll see where this story goes, if anywhere.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kill of the Week: Overly aggressive

Let's start with a few house-keeping chores, then jump straight into the situation that prompted a themittani.com writer to write this little bit of massive irony:
Nearly ten percent of EVE players logged in were in Asakai, most of them fighting the CFC.
Shall we?

First, an honorable mention.  This Tengu was very nearly KOTW.  I was gonna call the post "Kill of the Week: Venture top damage" because I figured that would never happen again.  This kill makes me smile on all sorts of levels.  The Tengu fit is almost silly bad, for one thing.  Medium Ancillary Shield Booster?  Really?  It's a five-gun, meta 100MN AB non-faction bag of fail.  Then to top that off, it gets killed by a fleet made up of a majority stake of Ventures and Reapers, with just enough mining barges and haulers to elevate that theme fleet to the realm of the epic.  That's just glorious right there.  So congrats to Talocan United!  Nice little kill and until Friday or so was gonna be KOTW.

Then I was put onto these kills, which are the actual KOTWs:

No, your eyes aren't deceiving you.  That's two identical Bhaalgorns, both stupid expensive, both dying in low-sec on consecutive evenings to very similar FusionDOT gangs.  I chatted with one of the pilots involved with both kills, who was kind enough to share some of the details.  In the first death, the pilot involved realized he was being chased, logged out, but then logged back in in a position where the Fusion gang could tackle him.  The Bhaal burned off the gate apparently intent on neuting or webbing off tacklers and getting in a kill or two before warping off, but it didn't work.  Straightforward gank.  The Fusion gang asked the Bhaal pilot if he was angry and he replied, "no, just overconfident."  Good on him!  He clearly wanted to fight, and I can tell you that doesn't happen often.

The second night, similar story.  The Fusion fleet scout spotted the same guy in a nearby system again with a Bhaal on scan.  A chase ensued.  First to catch the Bhaal was a Cynabal and a Falcon.  Apparently confident that he could neut or web the Cynabal off him even under Falcon jams, the Bhaal burned off the gate instead of burning back.  However, the Bhaal's attempt to push the Cynabal off him failed and the two ships managed to slow down the Bhaal for the Fusion gang to again land on him and kill him.  Props to SuperstarBiH!  Tackling a Bhaalgorn in a Cynabal is a very risky proposition.  A max-skilled Bhaal pilot with overheated Fed Navy Webs can apply those webs to 36km... coincidentally the same range a Cynabal with a Republic Fleet point can keep the Bhaal pinned.  If those three neuts land, the Cynabal is capped out in a single cycle.  So that must have been some very good flying on SuperstarBiH's part even with jams on his side.  Well done!

Great kills, FusionDOT!  I'm -- as usual -- insanely jealous.  ;-)  And that brings us to the main event...

Number of dead super-caps this week: 12

Of course, the big news this week was the massive super-cap battle in Asakai where no fewer than nine super-caps were lost: three CFC titans, five CFC super-carriers, and one Pandemic Legion Nyx.  EVE News 24 has great coverage of this one, including three videos.  Unsurprisingly, themittani.com also has the story.  Equally unsurprisingly, theirs tries to spin the story in the least damaging way possible, and it's the source of the quote above.  Both versions cover the basic facts but for reference, I'll summarize my understanding of them here.  If my facts are mixed up, please let me know in comments!

Gallente Militia had reinforced a small Caldari Militia POS orbiting a Cobalt moon.  The Goon FC, Dabigredboat (DBRB), apparently decided to use a sub-cap fleet to hot-drop the GalFed fleet and kill what they could, then pull back.  The Goon fleet gathered around the Titan belonging to one of DBRB's alts.  Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, DBRB hit the "jump" option in the right-click menu instead of the "bridge" option and the GalFed fleet was presented with a Leviathan in their midst!  GalFed had suspected that a Goon hot-drop may be in the offing, though, so they had many dual-point hictors at the ready.  These immediately pounced on the Lev.  DBRB immediately called on the prepared Goon fleet to assist and a temporary Titan bridge network was set up to accomplish that.

By that time, GalFed had called in Pandemic Legion to assist in killing the tackled Titan, having warned them in advance that the Goons might be coming after them.  DBRB, seeing this -- he was in the tackled Titan, after all -- changed the nature of the op from "rescue me" to "kill PL super-cap fleet!"  This aggressive move brought in what was probably a good size fraction of the CFC's capital fleet of supers, dreads, and carriers.  For a while, CFC had local superiority, including enough DPS to both down the PL Nyx and reportedly for DBRB's Lev to jump out, get repairs, and jump back in with some of the CFC reinforcements.  That might be misinformation, but I heard it from a lot of people: DBRB's Lev got out, then came back in.

Meanwhile though, PL wasn't taking this escalation lying down and they called in everyone who was willing to "come kill Goons!"  And that, it turns out, was a lot of people that included a 50+ strong Black Legion dread fleet heavy on high damage Moroses and a TEST fleet more than 500 strong.  CFC rapidly lost local superiority and after that, CFC supers started dying at a rate of one every thirty minutes or so for about four hours thanks to the 10% TiDi that the system operated under for the rest of the night.  By the last couple of hours, the CFC orders were pretty clearly "GTFO if you can."  In the end in addition to the eight supers, 40+ dreads and 20+ carriers couldn't.

Final tally of losses on the CFC side is going to be something like 800 billion ISK... or put another way, the output of 12 tech moons for more than a year, if my math is accurate.  Even if you're the CFC, that has to hurt a little bit.

Is this going to have an impact on CFC/HBC relations, or even kick off the anticipated war?  Not a chance.  This was one of those random situations that completely escalated out of control of both sides.  Both sides are going to look at it, think "what the hell just happened there?!" and go on with their lives.  But in the meantime, DBRB is out of the capital FC business and Goons -- Goons! -- just became a bit more risk averse.

Right.  Other super losses this week?  That started with this Nyx, who I guess was taking pretty screen-caps of his ship.  Because word around the campfire was that he kept logging in, decloaking, cloaking, moving around a bit, logging back out, logging back in, et cetera.  This was sufficient for the PURPLE HELMETED WARRIORS fleet to probe down his safe-spot, land in time to watch him cloak up in it, then warp in a sub-cap fleet to spread out, eventually successfully decloaking him.  Nice work!  Dead Nyx.

Next up, this Nyx snuffed out by Snuff Box.  I don't know how this one was caught but to me the interesting thing about this kill isn't the catching so much as the keeping.  That part was done with the some of the increasingly well-regarded neut Legions.  I really must make that a FOTW here before too long.  Congrats to Snuff Box!

Last was this low-sec Nyx, this one killed by a combined GalFed / Pandemic Legion fleet.  Word was that he was sitting outside a POS shield doing... something.  That "something" was quickly changed to dying when a (for PL) small super-carrier fleet landed on him.  Gallente and Minmatar Militias provided the tackle, proving that Asakai isn't the only system in which PL will accept sub-cap support help from FW pilots.

EDIT (28/Jan/2013): There's more detail on this kill in the comments below.  Look for the comment by Markius.  Thanks for the information!

All in all a pretty busy week!  But not a record.  That still stands at 14 in a single week, or two per day.  Also, as I was writing this post, I realized that I forgot to do a KOTW post for last week!  Oversight on my part.  Here's the money bit:

Number of dead super-caps last week: 2

But it's really short.  Just this Nyx dead to a Rooks and Kings hot-drop.  R&K gotta R&K.  The most entertaining thing about the kill-mail are the lows.  I have no idea what the thought process was here, but a dumb person and his super-carrier are soon parted.  Which also describes the other Nyx that died last week... helping a handful of sub-caps gate-camp!?  WTF?  TEST took care of that, putting enough bubbles around it to choke the system.  ;-)  Here's the video.  It's pretty amusing until the pilot taking it got himself killed.  Needless to say, the gate was soon no longer camped...

Lots of overly aggressive pilots this week and last!  I like it!

Sunday definition: Resistance

And now, an EVE term definition for the newer EVE players.  You vets can move on to the next post.

The moment you start firing any weapon in EVE at another ship or structure, you'll need to think about resistance.  Resistance in EVE is defined as the percentage of your damage that is removed before it is actually applied to the target ship or structure.  There are four types of damage done in the game: kinetic, explosive, thermal, and EM.  Each ship or structure in the game has a resistance to each of the four types of damage.  Most player ships and structures have separate resistances, calculated separately, for their shields, armor, and structure.  Most NPC ships and structures have only one set of resistances for all three.

Each type of weapon in EVE Online does between one and three types of the four types of damage.  Therefore, to do maximum DPS to your target, you'll want to match the damage type that you are doing to the lowest resistance(s) of the target.

Determining the type of damage that you're doing is very easy: simply do a "Show Info" on the ammunition type that you are firing.  Select the Attributes tab.  Scroll until you see something like this:

This particular ammunition does 18 HP EM damage and 4 HP thermal damage, therefore the damage potential from this ammo is 82% EM, 18% thermal.  In some cases, the game will directly tell you the resistances of your target, for instance with this Amarr Control Tower:

In this case, the Control Tower (POS) has zero percent resistance to both EM and thermal, therefore the type of ammunition I chose is a good selection for attacking this particular target.  Had I chosen an ammo with a 18 HP explosive damage instead, that explosive damage would be cut by 50% before being applied to the POS.  That's resistance.

When attacking NPCs, each type of NPC has a set resistance to two types of damage.  You see this quite often in this sort of chart which lots of people post in their EVE biographies:
Angel Cartel: Explosive/Kinetic
Blood Raiders: EM/Thermal
Guristas: Kinetic/Thermal
Mercenaries: Kinetic/Thermal
Mordu's Legion: Kinetic/EM
Sanshas: EM/Thermal
Serpentis: Kinetic/Thermal
In the case of NPCs, you should both set your resistances to strongly resist the types of damage listed, and should also do damage based on those types.  For instance, if fighting Serpentis NPCs, you should both resist against kinetic and thermal damage and should do kinetic and thermal damage yourself.

Still, these are general statements.  Each type of NPC has very specific resistance profile and though they aren't provided in-game, there are ample locations where you can reference them.  I personally am a big fan of Chruker's website for this.  These tables are particularly helpful for attacking rogue drone NPCs, which are not consistent in the types of damage they have the lowest resistance to.

Using resistances yourself, you'll want to protect your shields or your armor against the specific types of damage being done to you.  If you are attacking NPCs, then the type of damage being done will be easy to determine using the data above.  During late 2011 and all of 2012, CCP went a long way toward renaming the various types of resistance modules so that it's much easier to find the proper module for the type of tanking you want to do.  Both armor and shield ships also have modules that protects against all four types of damage (the Adaptive Nano Plating and Energized Adaptive Nano Membranes for armor, the Adaptive Invulnerability Field for shields), though less efficiently than dedicated resistance modules against a specific type of damage.  These modules are referred to in game as "hardeners."  "Active hardeners" are those that consume capacitor to function.  "Passive hardeners" are ones that do not.  Variations of both exist for both shield- and armor-tanking.

One other thing to keep in mind: most resistance modules of the same type fitted to a ship grant decreasing resistance to that type of damage.  This is a factor with most modules in EVE no matter their function.  Diminishing returns takes its toll in these situations.  It's therefore usually not particularly useful to fit more than three modules that protect against all four types of damage, or more than two modules that protect against a single type of damage.

Finally, sooner or later, you will wish to attack another EVE player, or withstand an attack from another EVE player yourself.  Again, resistance to damage plays its part in this.  Because you usually can't predict what type of damage another EVE player will fire at you, virtually all PvP ships in EVE are "omni-tanked": that is, they are built from the ground up with the highest possible resistance to all four types of attacks.  Still, each type of ship in EVE has one type of damage that they are naturally vulnerable to.  This is called the ship's "resistance hole" and varies based on the race of the ship and whether it's T1 or T2:

Ship typeResistance hole     If hole patched
T1 shield tank     EMThermal
T1 armor tankExplosiveKinetic
Amarr T2ThermalEM
Caldari T2EMExplosive
Gallente T2ExplosiveEM
Minmatar T2KineticExplosive

By following the chart above, you'll have a pretty good idea of the type of damage that's most likely to go over well when attacking another player's ship.  Judge them based on their apparent experience, alliance, and potentially their character age.  If these things seem to indicate an experienced player, you can usually safely assume that player has patched the most glaring hole in their ship and you should fire damage consistent with their adjusted lowest resistance.  If the player attacker seems less experienced, you can sometimes go straight for the resistance hole...

I hope this basic guide to resistance in EVE has been helpful!

Occasionally on Sundays, I will be defining a common EVE term for those who might not have heard it.  If you have a suggestion for such a term, please drop it into the comments.

COTW: Ganking isn't PvP and never was

Comment of the Week honors should probably go to all of the people that commented on the "Conflict of self interest" post from early this week.  The back and forth discussion on that post has been absolutely tremendous with both sides of the discussion on high-sec war-decs, safety (or lack thereof) in EVE, and social versus solo play staking out and defending their sides.  In particular, Alekseyev Karrde and Lee had an absolutely fantastic long discussion of both sides that really is worth your time to read.  I don't think Alek has written that much on this topic on the EVE-O forums, and that's saying something.  ;-)

Needless to say, you all gave me a lot to think about this week on this topic.

My overall favorite comment, though, and the one that really crystallized my own thinking on the subject was one written by an anonymous commenter.  Again, the comment itself was somewhat long but it's again worth your time to go read in full.  But I quote it here in part (edited slightly):
The PVP people have it all wrong. They have had it wrong from Day 1. Listen to me carefully, not everyone wants to shoot stuff. Not everyone finds pleasure from harassment of others...  See the problem is has been mentioned the strong get 90% of the benefits while the weak are basically punching bags that after a while quit.  Most weak people see the benefits of fighting back, but say a 4-year vet kills a 3 month old character.  Whoopdie-shit.. I can go ATTACK HIM?  Yeah, no thanks.
And yeah, I gotta say that kind of sums things up.

To me, the interesting thing about the argument that un-docking serves as consent to PvP is that the people who make this argument invariably make it from a position of enormous strength.  They have all the power in the relationship: all the knowledge, all the power, all the training, all the money... everything!  They are quite literally level 80 players preying on level 1 players and seeing nothing wrong with the relationship at all.  I'm currently rereading Alex Haley's Roots and was struck by several passages written from the perspective of white slave-holders whose characters argue slavery is both good for the slaves and a moral good in and of itself.  The slaves have cause to disagree.  The argument being made about "undocking equals consent" is rather similar...

One of the most famous examples of the strong preying on the weak and arguing it was for their own good happened in July 2009.  fmercury, observing a large cluster of mining barges ice-mining in close proximity in Kiskoken in high-sec, fitted out an Armageddon with smart-bombs and sufficent cap boosters to run them repeatedly until he was struck down by CONCORD.  He killed dozens of Retrievers and several more expensive barges and exhumers that day, and podded virtually everyone involved.  Two Orcas and a Mackinaw were all that survived it.  fmercury's sec status dropped to -9.99 in an instant, but by a couple of weeks later he was able to travel in high-sec again.(1)

At the time, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, plus much proselytizing on how the victims could have prevented this fate (wearing a longer skirt, a higher neck line, and not so much perfume, perhaps?).  But it's important to remember who had the power in the relationship.  After it was all over, the victims chatted on their corporate comms on how to rebuild.  Virtually all the victims were new players with very few resources.  The meme that lives to this day from the event is one of the victims offering assistance to his corp: "I have 17 mil.  Can I help?"  This simultaneously represents both the epitome of the positive EVE social experience and the pathetic, laughable state of the power of the victims in this event.  They lost everything.  Thanks to the mechanics of suicide ganking at that time, fmercury probably made a small profit.

How did this meme survive?  Because fmercury was spying on the corp comms of the victims and was recording it.  I'm not even kidding: he had all of the power in this relationship.
But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler.  Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless.  If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever.
1984, of course.  If EVE had a manual, that quote could be an introduction to one of the chapters.  ;-)

Most often, these are the victims that "need to get more friends and they need to learn to defend themselves better in a PvP game."  No doubt Alek would say that if they can't learn to PvP themselves, they should hire Noir.  Someone ask him if he'll work for 17 mil.

Am I exaggerating to make a point?  Maybe just a little.  But... just maybe I'm not exaggerating at all.  This sort of thing happens every single day in EVE and most of us have just come to accept it -- and the cost it wreaks in player unsubs -- as part of the game.  The question that started the philosophical debate: should we?  I still don't know.

Some of you have asked what my own opinion on this topic is.  I wrote part of the answer back in 2011.  The rest, I think I'm going to spend a day or three writing about this week.

Whew!  Didn't intend for this post to go on quite this long.  ;-)  Thank you again to everyone who commented on the "Conflict of self interest" post!

(1) Full disclosure: fmercury, presently a member of Pandemic Legion, was at the time a member of the corp Queens of the Stone Age.  This corp later went on to become part of the Rote Kapelle alliance, where they still are today.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bees can't fly in space

Asakai Battle report (still updating):

By my count, eight CFC supers down (including three Titans), one PL Nyx down.

Dabigredboat has lost his capital/super-cap FC privileges...
 (2013-01-27 01:08:58) announcebot@pleaseignore.com:
 (1:05:15 AM) the_mittani: blood in the water
 (1:05:23 AM) the_mittani: boat fucked up repeatedly and made his mistake bigger each time
 (1:05:41 AM) the_mittani: by that point there was so much blood, everyone got in on the feeding frenzy - which is pretty normal for supercap fights
 (1:05:49 AM) redacted: does that mean he's fired?
 (1:06:12 AM) the_mittani: can't fire him for real as he's too goddamned good with subcaps; that kind of aggression works well with subcaps
 (1:06:24 AM) the_mittani: it is absolutely ruinous with caps, which he is banned from forevermore
#### SENT BY 47Magnum to Test social @ 2013-01-27 06:08:59 EVE Time ####

You speak truth, brother:
@Hedliner http://i.imgur.com/99dlJRD.jpg this is what hell looks like #tweetfleet

Picture from that tweet reproduced here:


The story as I understand it will be posted as part of the KOTW super losses in 24 hours or so.  Short version?  Dabigredboat made one of those mistakes that makes EVE players famous forever.

Only Kirk could go to Qo'noS

Focus: CSM Summit Minutes, "Ship Balancing" session
Focus: CSM Summit Minutes, "Null-sec" sessions

My parents and their parents had a saying: "Only Nixon could go to China."  The expression is based on the fact that Richard Nixon was a ardent anti-Communist.  So when he traveled to China in 1972, even people who were anti-Communist themselves could not argue that Nixon would be too soft during negotiations.  Anyone else without these particular "credentials" might be suspected of making accommodations.  My own generation, who were children or unborn when this trip took place, would be more likely to say "only Kirk could go to Qo'noS".  ;-)

Super-caps only come up three times in the December Summit Minutes.  The first time is very briefly during the Null-Sec sessions where Greene Lee again points out that super-caps need some control in place to limit their ability to project power across long distances.  The second time is equally briefly during the same session.  During this session, CCP Soundwave mentioned the idea of an upgraded form of Infrastructure Hub that would confer lots of bonuses, but the number of them in-game would have a hard limit; to build one, you'd have to take the core of someone else's.  Trebor Deahdoow picked up on that mechanic and mentioned that it might be used in some form to limit super-cap proliferation.

The third time was during the Ship Balancing session, on the top of page 50.  There were three paragraphs devoted to the subject.  I quote the first one in full (edited slightly):
Seleene raised the issue of super-cap balancing. Ytterbium informed the CSM that super-cap re-balancing was not on the immediate horizon and that there was no concrete vision for changes to them. Fozzie added that, while they wouldn't promise to re-balance super-caps balance in 2013, they wouldn’t exclude it either. Fozzie continued by saying that super-cap balance was an issue, but that they believe other balance issues had a higher priority. Alek, Seleene, and Elise disagreed.
The other two paragraphs once again mentions a super-cap role change (though since it's CCP Greyscale saying it, I do not think that phrase means what you think it means) and once again, the forever-mythical super-cap module used for tackling other super-caps.  Therefore those two paras can be safely ignored.

As for that first paragraph, do I have to mention how amusing I find it that Seleene and Elise Randolph of Pandemic Legion are arguing for super-cap balancing?  I guess I don't.  Do I have to mention how amusing I find it that CCP Fozzie (formerly Raivi, also of Pandemic Legion) is arguing that other ship balancing concerns have higher priority?  I guess I don't have to do that either.  But yeah, I'm doing it anyway, aren't I?  Oh well.  Only Kirk could go to Qo'noS, and only Seleene and Elise could argue for a super-cap nerf.

A cynical man would say that Pandemic Legion has already gotten a large bowl full of fun out of over-powered super-caps and they want to make sure that nobody else pulls together enough of them to have an equal amount of fun.  An even more cynical man would argue that Seleene and Elise know that Fozzie and CCP Ytterbium aren't going to get around to capital ship balancing before late 2014 at the earliest, much less super-cap balancing.  Therefore anything they say on the subject is
  1. not going to happen any time soon; and,
  2. is just the two of them making the right sorts of noises while not believing what they're saying.
Despite what you may think though, I'm not cynical enough to believe either of these things.  Still, when the CSM Town Hall happens in eight days time, I think I'll ask Seleene what he meant by raising this issue and what he thinks should be done about it.  Might be interesting to hear his answer and to hear if his thoughts on this topic have evolved any.

Finally, speaking of Kirk going to Qo'noS, I have for the third time appeared on the Declarations of War pod-cast with Alekseyev Karrde and NinjaTurtle, this time with mynnna (corestwo) as their other guest.  We had quite an interesting conversation about the CSM Summit Minutes!  mynnna's going to be elected to CSM8 no matter what I think, so it's fortunate that I think that he's a good choice for the GoonSwarm candidate.  I think he'll bring a lot of value to the CSM8 table.  If you're interested in this topic, go give us a listen.  Thank you for the invite, Alek!

Finally, if you're getting a little sick of CSM-related topics, don't worry.  The next several posts aren't.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Transition team

So here's something interesting:

As of this writing, seven out of 13 CSM7 members aren't running for reelection to CSM8, and that includes four out of five (or five out of six, depending on what you believe) CSM7 work-horses.  The rest?  It seems likely that Dovinian and Greene Lee won't be reelected whether they run or not.  TEST will almost certainly pick a new candidate to represent them rather than the former.  Against ALL Authorities is no longer a sufficient power bloc to put the latter back in.  That leaves Trebor Deahdoow, UAxDEATH, Meissa Anunthiel (heh), and Darius III (double heh) as the only people who could conceivably be elected to CSM8 and act as transition people.

In past CSM history, the smallest number of previous CSM members to transition to the follow-on CSM was CSM5 to CSM6, which only had two incumbents re-elected (Trebor, Meissa).  Obviously, CSM6 was rather revolutionary in a lot of ways.  In the light of the interest of null-sec blocs in the CSM, a lot of CSM5 members chose not to run, and others that did run were badly out-voted.  CSM6 also had a strong Chair who came on board with a specific agenda and way of doing things in mind, which eased the transition.  In addition, CSM5 provided an excellent transition document to the incoming CSM6, part of which was made public, which also eased the way.

Most CSM members re-elected?  That'd be our current CSM, with -- when the term started -- eight members of the immediately prior CSM represented, plus two others from CSMs previous to that.  I'm sure that's contributing to at least some of the rush for the door we're seeing.

Here's the full list of re-elected CSM members, if you're curious(1):

CSM1 to CSM2:4     Ankhesentapemkah, Darius JOHNSON, LaVista Vista, Omber Zombie
CSM2 to CSM3:4     Vuk Lau, Omber Zombie, Meissa Anunthiel, Issler Dainze
CSM3 to CSM4:3     Zastrow, Meissa Anunthiel, Serenity Steele
CSM4 to CSM5:7     Korvin, TeaDaze, Meissa Anunthiel, Sokratesz, T'Amber, Helen Highwater, ElvenLord
CSM5 to CSM6:2     Trebor Daehdoow, Meissa Anunthiel
CSM6 to CSM7:8     The Mittani*, Two Step, Elise Randolph, Trebor Daehdoow, Seleene, UAxDEATH, Meissa Anunthiel, Darius III

Now there are a number of people out there, my old friend Poetic Stanziel among them, who are basically calling for a completely fresh start to the CSM.  Poetic in particular wants Trebor gone.  I disagree for four reasons:
  1. Trebor brings a less-represented perspective to CCP;
  2. he's the last guy standing that knows the key players in CCP and what's likely to go over well when talking to them;
  3. he's an excellent worker, writer, and (when he chooses to be) a good communicator; and
  4. now there's an important fourth reason: he'd provide an important transition link to past CSMs.
Without Trebor or someone like him on CSM8, that puts CCP in the very comfortable position of -- if they choose to -- being able to rewrite a lot of the history of their relationship and communications with the CSM.  With Trebor or someone like him on CSM8, there will be someone in a position to help hold CCP accountable to past commitments, particularly previously NDAed commitments that probably wouldn't survive a clean sweep.

For these reasons, I hope Trebor runs.  We'll see what he decides to do.

'cause the only transition statement I can imagine from Darius III to the rest of CSM8 if he gets re-elected is a middle finger.

(1) In addition to what's shown, CSM5 had four additional members of CSMs prior to CSM4: Ankhesentapemkah, Dierdra Vaal, Vuk Lau, and mazzilliu.  CSM7 had two additional members of CSMs prior to CSM6: Issler Dainze and Alekseyev Karrde.

Limited applicability

In the law, there's a term that's used sometimes: "limited applicability."  When applied to a legal decision, it means that a broad statement in the decision only applies to a limited audience, or under limited circumstances.  It doesn't apply to everyone.

The other day, I wrote that I'm not going to be playing DUST 514.  And a few people asked me for a more detailed justification why.  If you don't care about this bit, rejoin me three paragraphs down.  The reason, I stated, is because from an MMO FPS I'm looking for a more casual experience but I didn't explain that fully, so I'll do that now.  I don't want to have to train skills for months or pay a premium in order to sit in a tank or use a sniper rifle.  When I want to play an MMO FPS, I want to jump right in and play a game where it's my own skills and knowledge that matter rather than my character's.  And I want a lot of different options right from the word go: I want the game to conform to how I feel like playing that day.  Global Agenda was a great choice for me because right on log-in, it asked me what I felt like doing that day and advancement in that game was quick.

My overall single favorite shooter ever made is probably the original Ghost Recon.(1)  In particular, the advancement system was very clever.  In the original Ghost Recon, you were given a squad of soldiers with skills in stealth, accuracy, toughness, and leadership.  For each mission, you were given a target number of soldiers you could bring along, and you'd bring along the ones you wanted based on the mission objective.  And then during the mission, you played one of the soldiers yourself.  This allowed you to jump right into the action in four different roles depending on what you felt like doing that particular mission.(2)  You could also hop between soldiers mid-mission if you felt like doing something different all of a sudden or wanted to see what an individual soldier was seeing.  After you came back, each surviving member of the unit got a point that they could use to further enhance one of their four skills.  That was it.

The game could have been made more complicated by introducing a Lieutenant character that had to be trained and whose perspective you had to stick to.  The game could have been made more complicated by making you stick with your initial character choice throughout the mission.  And the game could have been made more complicated by making soldier advancement deeper and more complex.  But had any of those things been done, I wouldn't have liked it as well and it wouldn't be my favorite shooter ever.  I liked it because it was complicated and realistic enough.

DUST 514 is, in its way, too realistic for me.  I want a more casual MMO FPS.  That's why I won't be playing it.  But I still hope it succeeds in the marketplace.  My opinion of the game is my opinion of the game for myself, not for everyone.

Even more intriguing, though, I had a couple of people spin my opinion around and fire it right back at me.  NavyDingus asked it the most eloquently:
This post raises a pretty big, important question, so forgive me if I bust out a little geek philosophy of my own here. You say that you wouldn't want to play another game where skill training is based in real time, where players have to train for years in some cases to get certain gear or fulfill certain roles, where there will be constant drama between the old, rich Dusties and newer players. That's definitely a fair perspective and I'm sure many EVE players would agree with you.

But it certainly begs the question "Why do people start playing EVE in the first place?" Are they just ignorant of what EVE is really all about, and by the time they do figure it out they're too sucked in to quit?
Jakob Anedalle was the most concise:
Wait, so why shouldn't all of us Eve newbies say the same thing about Eve?
And this was such a great question that I wanted to address it separately.

Again, my feelings about DUST 514 are applicable to me.  They're not necessarily applicable to you.  Somewhere out there is my gaming mirror image: he's looking for a super-realistic, super-involved shooter and DUST 514 is going to be perfect for this person.  But he also wants to play a space game that's more casual and to this person I would have recommended Black Prophecy until it shut down a few months ago.  Maybe today I might recommend Star Trek Online instead.  These two games aren't for me because I want a more complex involved space game experience and that's why I play EVE Online.

But I only have room in my life for one EVE Online.  Two is too many for me.  In space, I want the sandbox.  In ground combat, I want casual.  Had DUST's skill system been dialed back a few notches, it might have fit the bill but DUST is being aimed at a specific audience.

So I'd spin it right back around again and fire it over to the questioners: do you want a very deep, immersive sandbox of a space game where it will take you years to master the game?  Then if so, EVE Online is for you.  If you want that deep, immersive sandbox of an experience in a ground combat game instead, then DUST 514 is for you.  But I think the person that gets fully into both of them is going to be pretty rare and I'm not going to be part of that group.

Anyway, just a little clarification, in case you were curious.  Thanks for the question to all those who asked it!  Not quite the Comment of the Week (that's coming), but it came damn close!

(1) Yep, I know about Ghost Recon Online, but I won't be playing it.
(2) Yes, quite similar to World of Tanks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hot drop o'clock

The CSM December Summit Minutes is such a deep document.  Ironic as this may sound, I really want to congratulate CSM7 for their coverage of the Summit and the detail provided in this doc.  See, Alek?  I do sometimes say nice things about you guys.  Anyway, I'm still only about a third of the way through the posts I want to write about it, so let's continue with a short one on...

Focus: CSM Summit Minutes, "Ship Balancing" session

First, the most interesting bit: CCP Ytterbium opens the session by blandly stating that CCP isn't going to be looking at capital ships or industrial ships in 2013, and probably not early in 2014, either.

Yeah, yeah, OK.  He didn't say that.  But what he did say is that the order of the next set of changes would be: battle cruisers, battleships, adjusting the skill requirements needed for T1 ships, then on to T2 ships.  So... er... yeah.  He kinda did say that, didn't he?  Once T1 combat sub-caps are out of the way, the first T2 ships adjusted would be Command Ships, Black Ops, and EAFs.  The first one, we knew about.  And from the time when CCP Diagoras was doing stats, we know that the other two comprise the two least-used classes of ships in the game.

"Nobody uses rockets, so why should we waste time on them.", I think the saying was once.  ;-)  CCP can be taught!(1)

That's the good news.  The bad news is that we're all going to have to exercise a lot of patience on this one.  There's a lot more ships in EVE than anybody realizes and Ytterbium and CCP Fozzie have job security for the next couple of years while they steadily work on them.  Overall, the discussion in this session revolved around four items:
  1. a few imminent changes, to armor-tanking, Black Ops, battle cruisers, and such;
  2. black ops ships;
  3. the role differences between tech 1, tech 2, and tech 3 ships; and,
  4. super-caps.
That last one, I want to cover in a separate post.

The first one, I'm pretty content about leaving alone.  The one really great thing about this team is that they've been completely open with players every step of the way.  I credit CCP Fozzie on that one.  Even when he's pissing players off, he's open and honest and communicative about it.  As long as this team continues operating as they're operating today, I have many compliments and no complaints.  The only thing I'm gonna say about armor tanking 2.0 is "called it" and other than saying I like almost all the changes in all respects, leave it at that.  ;-)

The one change I don't like?  The new skill.  This is really starting to feel like CCP is just tossing new skills into the game so that long-term vets will have something to train, and so that alts that aren't training skills will fall further behind the state of the art.  But as a side effect, it's impacting and widening the gap between new and old players.  But I'm going to be a long tent-pole post about that issue coming up before the end of the month so I'm not going to cover it further here.

For the role differences between T1 and T2, Fozzie and Ytterbium lay out basically the following strategy:
  • T2s are like T1s, just ultra-specialized into one or two aspects of the T1 design, with comparative reductions in other aspects;
  • T3s are like T1s, just able to do more in every area, or in specific areas, than the T1 design.
The old joke about customer service goes: "Fast, cheap, good: pick two."  (Or sometimes, pick one.)  In many ways, what we're getting with this balance is similar.  If the list is "High DPS.  Tanky.  Fast.  Good bonuses.  Easy to fly.  Inexpensive.", then current T1 cruisers get to pick three of which one is always "inexpensive."  Moas are tanky and easy to fly.  Thoraxes are fast and high DPS.  Bellicoses are fast and have a good bonus.  Omens are high DPS and tanky, and so on.  In this model, tech 3 ships will be able to pick four or five, but won't be able to pick inexpensive.  And tech 2s will be able to pick two, one at double strength, and also won't be able to pick inexpensive.  It's a good model and easy to understand and explain.

And finally, that leaves black ops ships.  They're getting three quick changes:
  • Increase the base jump range of all Black Ops ships to 3.5 light-years (equal to that of Titans);
  • Reduce the fuel cost of covert bridges by 25%; and,
  • Increase the fuel bay on all Black Ops by 25%, to 1250m3.
The latter two are not particularly significant.  To run a black ops gang of any size these days, one of the ships in the gang has to be a cloaky hauler.  That isn't going to change, particularly since the fuel cost of this kind of jump is based on the mass of the ship times distance.  Since the distance is increasing, the needed fuel will increase.  That means a cloaky hauler still has to be a part of the package.

That first one, though?  That's huge.  And I can't decide if I'm happy or sad about it.

One of the big concerns about titans and super-caps in general is their ability to power project.  This is their ability to sit in a centralized area and strike fast in a lot of different directions, or quickly cross space as needed.  You can jump a super-cap fleet right across New Eden in a very short time.

Now let's be clear: as a Black Ops pilot, the massive increase in jump range makes me very very happy.  It means that I can drop a "blops" group right across an entire region from my home system.  It's a big deal.  What's a bigger deal is that blops droppers can strike at carrier ratting groups, or mining groups, from half a region away or from bordering systems in the next region over, with little to no warning.  This is going to hit the north particularly hard since both of those activities are common from east to west.  Today, those groups are protected by bubble cages on the in-bound star gates and cynosural field jammers in the systems themselves.  Individual pilots, even when cloaked, are often ignored because regional intel channels are so good.  Today, any blops group large enough to threaten a large mining op is going to be detected long before it gets within range of the op, and the individual titan pilots are known and watch-listed to prevent them from using the titan's long range to perform bridges.

But now, with stronger black ops ships and the longer jump ranges, fleets of these will be able to jump far behind enemy lines with little to no warning before they strike.  A blops drop will have more than enough DPS to kill ratting carriers.  There's no way alliances can possibly track every single black ops pilot so there will be no way to stop ops for that reason.  In short, this forces more carebeary alliances to be a lot more diligent in their scouting and intel, and will probably force them to actually come out and defend their ratters and miners.  Fatal Ascension should be particularly fearful of Pandemic Legion blops drops if the CFC/HBC "limited engagement" allows such things.  The only bad thing is that ratting supers will still be safe since there isn't a ship capable of tackling a super that can use a black ops bridge.

The flip-side of people having to come defend their ratters and miners is I think all of us have a much better chances of getting some black ops kills once this change goes into effect.  That can only be a positive, since I still don't have one of those.  ;-)

So yeah, in those respects it's a good thing.  I have a Redeemer, and I'm looking forward to flying it.

But on the other hand... we've now just extended the power projection problem one step down, into sub-cap ships.  And I can't help thinking that's not such a hot idea.  Alliances already like to joke sometimes that every hour of every day is hot drop o'clock.  This certainly ain't gonna help...  I guess we'll see how it goes.

(1) In other news, reading that post today is kinda creepy.  It's great how far CCP has come in two years!

Fit of the Week: Exequror

As a companion to last week's Scythe fit(s), here's the equivalent Exequror:

[Exequror, General]
Damage Control II
800mm Reinforced Rolled Tungsten Plates I
Beta Reactor Control: Capacitor Power Relay I
Beta Reactor Control: Capacitor Power Relay I
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II

Experimental 10MN Microwarpdrive I
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Conjunctive Magnetometric ECCM Scanning Array I

Medium Remote Armor Repair System II
Medium Remote Armor Repair System II
Medium Remote Armor Repair System II

Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Trimark Armor Pump I
Medium Anti-Explosive Pump I

Medium Armor Maintenance Bot I x5

First, the raw numbers.  Last week, I mentioned that three Scythes is the equivalent of two Scimitars and that you should use that math when calculating the impact of logi on a gang's ability to rep.  For Exequrors, you can make a similar calculation.  An Exequror can rep 208 raw armor HP per second, which is then adjusted for the resists of the target ship.  The Oneiros can rep 341 per second under the same conditions.  So the math is slightly more in the Oneiros's favor: it takes five Exequrors to match three Oneiroses... so not quite a two to one equivalence.  It does become nearly a two to one equivalence if your Exequror pilots can't use T2 remote armor reppers and have to use meta ones instead.  And that's why you should if at all possible fit the T2 reppers on this ship.

That, somewhat ironically, might put the optimal use of Exequrors out of reach of newer players: you need to train Remote Armor Repair Systems to level IV in addition to having a high Gallente cruiser skill in order to fully make use of this ship's capabilities.

After that, most of what I said about last week's Scythe applies to this week's Exequror.  Your tank is 25k EHP mostly based around strong resists, which is about half of an Oneiros tank.  Happily, your tank is strongest against lasers, which is most likely what an armor fleet is going to be facing and it's what's most likely to be able to damage your rep cruiser sitting as you should be behind enemy lines.  Like the Scythe, your rep range is 66km instead of an Oneiros's 71km.  But unlike the Scythe, at least your lock range is longer than your rep range.  ;-)  Again like the Scythe, your speed and agility are greater than that of your T2 counter-part.  You're not going to have any trouble at all keeping up with your fleet on the move and staying behind their cover in a fight.

The highest meta Cap Power Relays have the advantage of using less CPU than T2 and are as of this writing cheaper than T2 as well.  Tank is "armor basic": plate, DC, and two EANMs, plus rigs.  You can triple-trimark the Exequror to get a hair more paper EHP.  But if you do that, you'll have an explosive hole; I recommend you take the slight paper EHP hit and patch it.  An ECCM is also provided to protect against jamming.

If you don't expect to face a lot of jamming, you have a couple of interesting options for the last remaining mid slot.  Unlike the Scythe, with good skills you'll already be cap-stable.  If you want to be more cap-stable, I guess you could fit a third Cap Recharger.  But the option also exists to fit a Small Cap Booster to make your ship more neut-resistant; you can pulse it to restart your cap recharge cycle and/or run away from what has you neuted.  Or if that's not a worry either, you could even fit some sort of aggressive e-war mod there, though I don't recommend that!

Overall, I don't have much more to say about this one.  This is a fine T1 cruiser, relatively tanky, quick and agile for an armor boat, and a great introduction to the world of fleet logistics.

Happy repping!

All Fits of the Week are intended as general guidelines only.  You may not have the skills needed for this exact fit.  If you do not, feel free to adjust the fit to suit to meet your skills, including using meta 3 guns and "best named" defenses and e-war.  Ships can also be adjusted to use faction or dead-space modules depending on the budget of the pilot flying it.  Each FOTW is intended as a general guide to introduce you to concepts that will help you fit and to fly that particular type of ship more aggressively and well.